Ridgeland resident Israel Martinez decided to start his storm shelter construction company, Torshel, after witnessing the destruction a series of tornadoes in Mississippi caused in 2014. More than 15 people died in the storms and more than 80 were injured. Cities such as Tupelo and Hattiesburg saw entire blocks destroyed.
After those storms, Martinez saw there was a need for shelter construction in Mississippi. He found that there were few businesses in the state that built storm shelters, and all of these charged high prices. Martinez looked outside the state and made contact with Oklahoma-based company Stormsafe, which he partnered with to bring affordable storm shelters to Mississippi.
Martinez, 29, opened Torshel in April. The concrete and steel shelters are manufactured to withstand EF5 category tornadoes to meet and exceed FEMA standards for storm shelters and to carry the Registered Professional Engineers organization seal. All shelters come with an emergency kit that includes a whistle for summoning help, a jack for lifting large objects, LED lights with batteries and battery-powered fans.
Torshel builds underground shelters ranging from extra small to community-sized based on the number of people intended to use the shelter. Extra small shelters for two to four people are 6 feet by 3 feet and cost $3,950, with installation fees included; small shelters for six to eight people are 7 feet by 3 feet and $4,300; medium shelters for 12 to 14 people are 7 feet by 5 feet and $4,800 and large shelters for 18 to 20 people are 8 feet by 5 feet and $5,350. Jumbo-sized community shelters, intended for small businesses, trailer parks and apartment complexes, can house 22 to 26 people and are 9 feet by 5.5 feet and $7,300.
Aboveground shelters, ideal for people with disabilities that make it difficult to use stairs, are available in 4-feet-by-6-feet-size for $5,900 and 4 feet-by-8-feet size for $7,300. Aboveground shelters can be installed in the owner's garage or on a concrete slab outside.
In addition to protecting its owners in case of a storm, a storm shelter also improves the value of a property, especially in tornado-intensive areas like Mississippi. A study from Dr. Kevin Simmons, a professor of economics at Austin College in Texas, showed that the existence of a shelter in a home increases the home's value by 3.5 percent.
"Our objective is to save lives and create awareness," Martinez said. "In addition to constructing shelters, Torshel provides information on what to do and what you need in case of a storm so people can protect themselves."
For more information on storm shelter construction and storm safety, visit Torshel's website or call 601-500-7275.
Mississippi Main Street Awards Luncheon
The Mississippi Main Street Association hosts its 26th Annual Awards Luncheon Thursday, June 18, at the Old Capitol Inn (226 N. State St.).
Mississippi Main Street is an economic-development program centered on historic preservation. The annual luncheon honors local businesses and organizations affiliated with Main Street and recognizes the best downtown development projects from 51 Main Street communities throughout the state.
Make reservations online by Friday, June 12. Individual tickets are $40 and a table for eight may be reserved for $320.
For more information about the event or the awards, call 601-944-0113 or visit msmainstreet.com.
SBA HUBZone Contracting Programs
The Mississippi Small Business Association is seeking firms that may be eligible for its federal 8(a) business development and Historically Underutilized Business Zones contracting programs.
The HUBZone program helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities. The federal government is the world's largest buyer of goods and services with $213.2 million purchased from Mississippi 8(a) and HUBZone-certified small businesses in 2014. These conferences are solely for Mississippi firms interested in certifying their business as 8(a) or HUBZone, as well as Mississippi firms interested in recertification.
In addition to other eligibility criteria, those pursuing 8(a) must be organized for profit, at least 51 percent owned, controlled and managed by socially and economically disadvantaged persons, and have been in business for a minimum of two years. Businesses pursuing certification must have their principal location in a designated HUBzone in Mississippi (visit http://www.sba.gov/hubzone to view the HUBZone map), must be organized for profit and meet the 35 percent minimum employee residency requirement in their zones.
MSBA is asking interested businesses to attend conferences Wednesday, July 1, at the Mississippi e-Center at Jackson State University (1230 Raymond Road). The 8(a) Application Conference is from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with sign-in at 8 a.m. The Destination HUBZone Conference is 2 to 4:30 p.m. with registration at 1:30 p.m. Both events will take place in the Convention Hall. Space is limited, so pre-register online today:
For more information, call the SBA Mississippi District Office at 601-965-4378, ext. 17, 13 or 14.